Monday, May 5, 2014

Sci-Fried Theater: THE MAN WHO WAS CHASED BY A UFO (1976)

The Spanish are not exactly known for their sci-fi cinema. Just like the Swedes don’t really know how to do horror and Americans can’t do ambiguity. Allegedly one of the first Spanish science fiction films ever, this one may have also been the last (although I did absolutely no research into that presumption). It is so completely threadbare, clumsy and confused that it has been reported that on opening night Ed Wood heckled it from the back row.

Opening with newsreel footage of UFO pics from around the world, we are told that UFOs are responsible for electrical blackouts dating back to, well, the invention of electricity. Not that this has any bearing on anything that is about to happen. Narrated in the first person, novelist Alberto(Richard Kolin) is stressing about the deadline for the completion of a book for his publisher. Little does he know that humanoid aliens are landing on earth ready to unleash mutants who are looking for one man, him! Why? Not a clue, but I’m sure the reason is very important as it must have cost a fortune. I’m sure the balsa-wood and crash-helmets are just a clever fa├žade to avoid notice. The aliens also have their own language and greet each other by saying… wait for it… “klaatu barada nikto!” I feel like I've heard that somewhere before.

In desperate need of uhhh “inspiration”, Alberto goes to visit his “friend” to release his “writer’s block.” Actually, he’s too dense to pick up on the fact that the sexy bottle-blonde Carol (Spanish sexploition star Lynn Endersson) is trying to get some action. She gives him a sultry look and says that she could give him something to write about, while stroking her stocking-clad thigh. To which Alberto replies “it would be out of my genre and style, my subjects are western and detective novels.” Hoo-boy, this guy is the life of the party. As soon as it appears that Carol is going to make her point in a somewhat more obvious fashion, we dissolve to a lizard and then cut to Alberto walking down a dirt road and picking up a lizard tail! Don't look at me, I have no answers.

Next thing we know, the mutants, who we are told are “dressed up as humans” (ie wearing suits with painted stockings over their heads), are stealing Alberto’s car and run it over a cliff. Of course we don’t actually see it go over the cliff, because that would cost too much. Instead we get a POV shot of someone moving the camera around while at the bottom of a cliff. After fending off the mutants with a brick, Alberto hightails it to the cops. Of course when I say “hightails”, I mean he stops at the Carol’s house to warn her (she is busy with another man), hitches a ride with a nervous driver who he dupes into letting him drive so that he can speed along the twisty mountain roads and jump a cliff “Dukes of Hazzard” style! Presumably this is simply a ploy to pad the film to feature length, but you never know, writer-director Juan Carlos Olaria may have decided that the film needed a car stunt, in spite of the fact that he had no money to do it with and had to resort to miniatures. I swear on the lives of my unconceived children, I promise you, I am not making this up.

Worst carjacking attempt ever.

Of course the police are all too happy to investigate his claim of alien life-forms jacking his car, but unfortunately for Alberto, them aliens are smarter than the average bear and have attached the car to their saucer, flown it out into space and the dropped it into orbit around the Earth! And you thought your local impound yard was a bitch. Since there is no carpus delicti (yeah, like you could do better), the cops aren’t buying into his story about flying saucers and mutants, because if there was a car, the whole thing would totally make sense.

Finally, after Alberto has a nightmare in which he is buried in the sand on a beach while a German shepherd wanders around before biting his neck and then waking up to the aliens talking to him through his TV, the detective on the case starts believing Alberto’s story. When Alberto goes to visit his best friend’s wife to say goodbye, he turns down her advances after she greets him in an open robe. What the hell is this guy saving it for? The anal probe?

The aliens have had enough of this surreptitious crap and zap a hole in a cops head with a laser that shoots from their hands. With the cop out of the way they bust into Alberto’s new safe house only to have their bits hacked off with a sickle that Alberto keeps by the bed for just such occasions. Or maybe he keeps it there to fend off all the hot chicks who are trying to put the moves on him. Either way, it’s not made clear. The mutants bleed yellow blood (which we know is true, because we’ve all seen 1979's PHANTASM) and can reattach their severed parts, though maybe not in the smartest way since one of them attaches a head to his shoulder. I guess now we know why there are no mutant rocket scientists.

Ray Milland and Rosie Greer in a role that will surprise you!

Ultimately a UFO does in fact chase Alberto. It flies behind him down a dirt road and goes on for about one seventh of the films total running time, but feels like an eternity. It's not so amazing that a UFO is chasing him, what is amazing is that this chain smoking novelist can run for 10 minutes without running out of breath. Once abducted, the aliens explain why they wanted Alberto in the first place, and not a minute too soon as we are a full hour into the film! The aliens are from another parallel dimension that mirrors earth in every way (except for the advanced space travel, the higher understanding of the universe and the ability to create robot mutants of course) and if either of them were to enter the other’s space, they would all die. Oh well, why didn’t you say so? Wait, WHAT?! Don’t worry, we get an elaboration on that explanation. You see these mutants are trying to wrap their collective heads around the concept of antimatter and have gotten the notion that they can totally figure all of this out if they kidnap a depressed novelist who couldn’t get laid in a whorehouse with a bag of coke and a fistful of Benjamins. Hey, I said it was an explanation, I didn't say it was a good one.

Aliens love TV too

The upshot of the movie seems to be an environmental message, particularly at the end when the aliens go on a lengthy rant about how the Earth is over populated and is suffering from climate change and everyone is doomed. Wait, does this mean Al Gore is from a parallel dimension? That would explain so much! Either way, this is one bumpy ride. At no point does Olaria manage to follow a cohesive thought for more than five minutes at a time and even though it looks like it was shot in a weekend, it feels like it was shot over a few years with Olaria forgetting what he had shot previously. Clearly Olaria doesn’t have two pesetas to rub together and his staging will leave you yearning for the lavish production values of an Alfonso Breccia epic.

Amazingly Olaria became somewhat famous, at least in Spain, for this his first of only two feature films. It has something of a cult following, which is actually understandable as the movie does have a certain charm and it's definitely not pandering to the mainstream. Purportedly the film was dubbed into English for a broader release. I haven’t been able to find anything proving that it played in the US, but if it did, it was a small distributor who ran it briefly in drive-ins and grindhouses to a presumably chemically pacified audience. His second film shot in 1982 was titled THE RED JOURNAL and has never been released, allegedly due to Olaria’s reluctance to have people see it. No, really. That is the reason.

As of last year, believe it or not, Olaria is attempting to get a sequel financed. Titled SON OF THE MAN WHO WAS CHASED BY A UFO, this is particularly odd since Alberto seemed just as afraid of sex as he was afraid of a bunch of alien mutants who look like rejects from a Lucha Libre academy. The plot details are (unsurprisingly) non-existent, but there is a crowd-funding campaign to produce a documentary on the making of this still unfinanced sequel. Did your head just explode? Mine did.

Billy Meier's BFF, Juan Carlos Olaria

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